AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators
Nature and Wildlife Discovery

Nature and Wildlife Discovery

Nature and Wildlife Discovery Overview

A comprehensive tour through Sri Lanka exploring World Heritage Sites, ancient kingdoms and pay homage at the Cradle of Buddhism. Take a nostalgic train ride through some of the most scenic spots in Sri Lanka and enjoy the crisp cool climate as you wander through sprawling tea plantations.

Sri Lanka Culture, Nature and Wildlife Round Island Discovery

A comprehensive tour through Sri Lanka exploring World Heritage Sites, ancient kingdoms and pay homage at the Cradle of Buddhism. Take a nostalgic train ride through some of the most scenic spots in Sri Lanka and enjoy the crisp cool climate as you wander through sprawling tea plantations.

Visit the National Parks at Yala, Udawalawe and Wilpattu, all home to an extraordinary range of wildlife with the world’s highest density of leopards and elephants. Enjoy a stunning range of river and sea activities and take in a spot of whale watching.

Day 1: Depart by flight to Colombo

Depart with your choice of airline to Colombo.

Day 2: Arrival

You will be met and assisted on arrival at the airport by your driver cum guide who will be with you for your entire holiday. Transfer to the Wallawwa for overnight. The Wallawwa is a 18 bedroom beautifully renovated country house hotel set amongst tropical gardens and just 15 minutes from Colombo airport or 30 minutes from downtown Colombo. With its signature Z Spa, wonderful Verandah restaurant with its own organic gardens, oversized suites and resplendent gardens the boutique hotel has become a trusted favourite for its levels of service, food and laid back atmosphere.

Distance and journey time: 8 km, approx 20 mins

Day 3: Wilpattu National Park safari

Drive north to Wilpattu National Park for an afternoon safari.

This is the land haunted by big cats. Recording a vast number of Sri Lankan Leopards, Wilpattu National Park has been named due to 'Willus' (Natural Lakes) studded throughout the park. Apart from big cats and precious flora, the park is well known for a healthy population of elephant, sloth bear, spotted deer, mongoose and water buffalo.

Proceed to Anuradhapura for overnight ( we recommend an overnight at Leopard Trails Tented Safaris for a stay in the Park itself)

Distance and journey times:

Wallawwa to Wilpattu National Park: 170 km, 4 hrs

Wilpattu National Park to Anuradhapura: 56 km, approx 1.30 hrs

Day 4: Anuradhapura ancient ruins and temples

Anuradhapura, one of the greatest and oldest civilisations in the world starring 113 kings and spanning over 1300 years in its peak, was the first capital of ancient Sri Lanka. It is an extensive complex of monasteries, temples, buildings and bathing pools, remarkably well-preserved. The main historical sites here include the Mahavihara (the first monastery), which served as the seat of Theravada Buddhism, the Thuparamaya (built by King Devanam Piyatissa in 250 BC) and the Ruwanwelisaya.

One of Anuradhapura's main attraction is the sacred, ancient Bo tree, which originally came from a branch of the Bo tree in Buddha Gaya – the tree under which Lord Buddha sat and gained enlightenment.

Anuradhapura can be explored on foot or by bike.

Overnight in Anuradhapura.

Day 5: Cradle of Buddhism, Mihintale / Minneriya National Park.

In the morning transfer from Anuradhapura to Mihintale, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Walk past a massive cooling fountain and head towards the renowned staircase of the temple. Feel the coolness of granite slabs as you shift from the ruins of a hospital to Kantaka Stupa built in the 1st century B.C. Step into the courtyard and the refractory. See the Maha Seya, the main Dagoba, and Aradhana Gala, where you can have a spectacular view of Anuradhapura.

Drive south to Minneriya National Park. Spread over 8800 hectares, this is a sanctuary for elephants. Minneriya is home to herds of deer and ample birdlife, but its spotlight remains between swaying trunks and flapping ears. Watch carefully as herds of elephants roll on the grass-covered banks to feed on tender shoots.

Transfer from Minneriya to Sigiriya. Overnight in Sigiriya.

Distance and driving time:

Anuradhapura to Mihintale - 22 km, 40 mins.

Mihintale to Minneriya National Park: 62 km, approx 1.30 hrs

Minneriya to Sigiriya: 30 km, approx 35 mins.

Day 6: Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Polonnaruwa

Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, is built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century. A palace. A rock fortress. The hidden castle of King Kasyapa.

Sigiriya consists of 1200 steps. The first part of the visit is a leisurely walk through the pleasure gardens. Then you start to climb. There are two areas where you can take a break on the way up. The entire duration of the experience takes approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on the speed at which you want to climb

Afternoon transfer from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa.

Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers.

Polonnaruwa is divided into 4 areas. The visit starts with the Kings Palace and Baths. We then visit 3 different tooth relic temples and then proceed to the stupas. The visit ends on the far western side of the complex where you will see one of the most astonishing Buddha rock carvings in Sri Lanka. One can walk, bike or drive between locations.

Overnight in Sigiriya.

Distance and journey time: 58 km, approx 1.30 hrs each way

Day 7: Dambulla Cave Temple and Kandy

In the morning visit Dambulla Cave Temple to see the brightly painted murals.

The Dambulla Cave Temples are the largest and best-preserved rock cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, towering 160 m over the surrounding plains with more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. The site is of interest to anyone that loves historic art, as five of the caves contain ancient statues and paintings related to and depicting Lord Buddha and his life.

The climb from the base is not strenuous – and can be done at a leisurely pace. It takes approximately 30 minutes. Your guide will buy your entrance fee and climb with you. There are approximately 200 steps. The best time to climb is in the early morning or the late afternoon to avoid the heat. You will need to cover your knees and shoulders – and access the inner chambers barefoot or with socks.

Travel on to Kandy, the World Heritage Site and last royal capital of Sri Lankan kings.

Overnight in Kandy.

Distance and journey times:

Sigiriya to Dambulla: 9 km, approx 20 mins.

Dambulla to Kandy, approx 3 hrs

Day 8: Elephant Orphanage and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens

Visit the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawella. Afterwards, transfer to Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. First developed as a pleasure garden under royalty and later harmonised by the British, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya is a 147-acre bliss of an experience, passing well- tended lawns, pavilions, and an octagon conservatory. Do not miss the orchid house and giant Java fig tree.

Overnight in Kandy.

Day 9: Scenic train ride to Nanu Oya and Nuwara Eliya

In the morning transfer to Kandy train station for the 0845 train ride to Nanu Oya. This is a scenic 4-hour journey not to be missed. On arrival at Nanu Oya, meet your driver and transfer to your hotel in Nuwara Eliya.

Misty steep roads, twisting through lush green blankets of tea bushes in a cool climate remind visitors that they are within the range of the renowned British colonial retreat.

A walk through the green grass and red-brick walls presents breath-taking views of a buzzing countryside hamlet. Drive through the green valleys of the hill country pierced by endless waterfalls and dotted by tea pluckers draped in bright coloured saris.

Overnight in Nuwara Eliya.

Distance and journey times:

Kandy to Nanu Oya by train: 4 hrs

Nanu Oya to Nuwara Eliya: approx 15 mins.

Day 10: Horton Plains and World's End.

Early in the morning transfer to Horton Plains.

Horton Plains, UNESCO World Heritage Site, trekking paradise and eco-tourism hideout in the heart of the isle, painted with unending stretches of green pastures marks one of the healthiest wet montane evergreen forests in Sri Lanka. With an altitude above 7000ft, the plateau sweeps to a robust 3169 hectares sheltering flora and fauna varieties that may be found nowhere else on earth. You may also gaze down World's End, a head-spinning 3700ft drop towards the Southern end or drive carefully through herds of sambar deer.

Overnight in Nuwara Eliya.

Day 11: Scenic train to Ella and Tea Plantation tour

Take the 09.30 hr scenic train to Ella. This will be 4-hour scenic train journey. Upon arriving at Ella railway station, you will be transferred to your hotel for overnight. A quaint hillside village offering the most amazing view in all of Sri Lanka, Ella is ideal for leisurely treks.

Visit a Tea Factory for a fascinating tour.

This evening, take a short 30 minutes walk up Little Adam's Peak for sunset.

Overnight in Ella.

Nanu Oya to Ella by train: 4 hr

Ella train station to hotel: approx 5 mins.

Day 12: Udawalawe National Park

Drive to Udawalawe National Park.

Arrive in time for the noon feeding time at the Elephant Transit Home established to rehabilitate orphaned elephant calves for ultimate release back into the wild.

Late afternoon enjoy a safari at the Udawalawe National Park. Marked by relatively large herds of elephants, the national park proves to be one of the best places one could observe them in their natural habitat. Hop into a safari jeep and head into the park, to observe the herd of giants, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, water buffalo, and jackal.

Overnight in Udawalawe National Park.

Distance and journey time: 120 km, approx 3.30 hrs

Day 13: Drive to Yala National Park

Rise early in the morning for a game drive before heading to Yala National Park.

Overnight at Yala National Park.

Distance and journey time: 85 km, approx 2.30 hrs

Day 14: Safaris at Yala National Park

Enjoy a morning and afternoon safari at Yala National Park.

Spreading into a vast 1259 km. Yala is the heartland of wildlife in Sri Lanka. There are herds of elephant, sloth bear, spotted deer, jackal, extensively populated birdlife as well as the highest density of leopards in the world.

Overnight in Yala.

Day 15: Dickwella and Mirissa

Leave for a morning safari at Bundala National Park.With its lagoons, reservoirs, and salt pans, Bundala National Park offers an oasis for all kinds of birds extending from bee-eaters to greater flamingos, the latter recording over 2000 in number at a time.

Continue to Mirissa. Mirissa beach is located close to the southern-most part of the island and consists of beautiful beaches. Mirissa is also renowned as a prime location for whale and dolphin watching. The beach also provides ample opportunities for deep sea diving, snorkelling, and river trips. Enroute visit Hunmanaya (Blow Hole) in Dickwella.

Overnight at Number One Mirissa.

Distance and journey times:

Yala National Park to Bundala National Park: 40 km, approx 1.30 hrs

Bundala National Park to Mirissa: 102 km, approx 2.30 hrs

Day 16: Whale and Dolphin watching in Mirissa

Early in the morning join in a Whale watching excursion.

Transfer from Mirissa to Galle, the southern capital where classic Dutch architecture meets a tropical setting. Leave with your guide for an depth Fort tour. Walk the Dutch-haunted streets listening to the creaks of wooden saloon doors and observe how European architecture mingles with South Asian traditions. Flanking the old gate is the Zwart Bastion and the lighthouse standing 18 feet in its glory next to the Point Utrecht Bastion. This Dutch bliss is painted with streets that spread in a rectangular grid pattern pierced with houses carrying Dutch colonial style verandas. Overnight in Galle.

Distance and journey time: 39 km, approx 1 hr

Day 17: Galle to Balapitiya for boat safari on the Madu River

In the morning transfer from Galle to Balapitiya for a boat safari at Madu River.

Leave the Madu River, the lifeline of Balapitiya and head towards Kotu Duwa, the small island housing a temple that dates back to ancient Sinhalese kings. Or sail through tunnels of shady mangroves swaying alongside Madu River to witness the tranquillity of this bio-diversity hot spot which boasts of reptiles, molluscs and over 70 species of freshwater fish. Balapitiya has also become a household name in the minds of bird watchers ensuring a thrilling offshore experience.

On completion of the boat ride, proceed to your chosen beach resort / or a short break in the Maldives.

Distance and journey time:

Galle to Balapitiya: 47 km, approx 1.10 hrs

Balapitiya to Bentota Beach: 19 km, approx 20 mins

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